OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This week I finally have something a bit different to say.  I am aware, you see, that writing a blog about writing a PhD is a bit repetitive: “read some ballads, thought about the music, wrote about some ballads, went to a supervision meeting, did some more research, wrote a bit more, read some secondary texts… read some ballads…” and so on.  But this week was different, because I went to Queen Mary, University of London, to swelter at the Psalm Culture and the Politics of Translation conference organised by Ruth Ahnert, Tamara Atkin and Francis Leneghan.  The heat was immense, but so was the amount of work that had gone into the conference, not just by those many people giving papers but also by the conference organisers.

Three parallel panels, three times a day, plus multiple plenaries and daily double keynotes meant that there was plenty to keep you occupied.  I enjoyed  Timothy Duguid’s paper on Scottish metrical psalms, Lucia Martinez on the creation of early modern English metre, Lucy Underwood on Ralph Buckland and Kate Sargan on the life of Christina of Markyate.  But my personal highlight was the presentation made by  Beth Quitslund and Nicholas Temperley on the Sternhold and Hopkins psalter, not least because it was made in the chapel of the Charterhouse, which is in itself a beautiful building, but also because they actually got everyone singing!  There were only a few lectures that mentioned the music for the psalms, partly because a lot of them were on prose psalter translations, but it has to be said that literature and history specialists predominated, so hearing some music sung was very refreshing.

On Tuesday evening I went on the tour of the Charterhouse which was led by one of the brothers.  I was very glad that I went because the building is, in part, Tudor and it has a very  interesting history.  The gardens were absolutely beautiful.  There are several of my photographs below.

It was also a very friendly conference.  I arrived on Monday morning having met only one person there before, and left on Wednesday evening having made lots of new friends and having plenty to think about over the summer.  When I got home I booked my first summer research trip, to Cambridge.  I need to go to the Parker Library and Cambridge University Library.  I’m in the process of organising a trip to the Bodleian and then I have to think about going to London to the British Library.

While I was down in London I did some work on my theory section, refining my work on knowingness.  I finished this bit of work this morning and I’m quite pleased with it, because although I wasn’t very sure of myself when I started on it on Monday, it has really helped to clarify my thoughts.  It’s very important, because it underpins the whole basis of my thesis.

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As I posted on twitter, I have hit upon a paradox in my work.

The more I read, the more I want to write.   The more I write, the more I need to read. 

This one’s a difficult one.  Here’s where I am.

Yesterday I read through my musicological ballad analysis chapter and started to read Beth Quitslund’s ‘The Reformation in Rhyme’.  I found references to several other books I should look at  about the metrical psalters.  This is par for the course.  This happens every time I read anything.  Each book I look at generates about another 4 or 5 that I feel the need to look at too.  I’m used to this, but it gets a little bit frustrating.

This morning I sat down to write some notes to remind myself what I need to do in the next few weeks.  I  looked through the notes from my last panel meeting, and from the supervisory meetings I had just before I was taken ill.  More things to read.  Chapters in books, unpublished theses, articles, entire monographs…  More and more things to read.  Then I looked round at my bookshelves, groaning under the weight of unread books from the library.

Most of what I ‘need’ to do is reading,  but I need to write something for my next meeting.  I have 23 thousand words of a working document on the analysis of the ballad tunes and their lyrics (it will be substantially less when I move the ballad lyrics to the appendices), but it’s not finished.  I need to do more work on dating the ballads and analysing their lyrics.  Then I need to relate it to the general trends in Renaissance music of the period, and so we come back to secondary reading.  Everything I do leads to more reading.  But I want to write! What’s more, I need to write.  So I suppose at some point I have to draw the line under reading, at least for a while, to do the writing that that reading has generated and carry on with the primary research.

I had a very supportive ‘back to work’ meeting on Wednesday. We talked about my plans to ease myself back into work gently with some reading!  Also, I have an article about Jacobean corruption and Saint John Roberts almost ready for submission to a journal.  I just have to get an exact reference for the document on which it is based, sort out exactly how to present the website references and check it through once more.  As soon as I get the document archive reference, I will be sending it straight off and not holding my breath.  There are also a couple of conferences I want to prepare something for.  One is the histfest at Lancaster University, which is just up the road from me.  So I’ve got plenty to keep me going.  It was lovely being back at work, and great to know I’ve got my panel supporting me.